- A war of thirty days
The war of thirty days
The Bulgarian aggression, which had begun to manifest itself against the allies in the First Balkan War from February 1913, while the war was still in progress, and continued with great intensity after the signing of the Treaty of London, caused understandable concern for potential new martial ignition in the area. Bulgaria did not abandon its ambitious plans to hegemony in the Balkans and was not prepared to accept fatalistically the position with which was treated by the Treaty of London. Considering that its well-trained army had successfully tested, Sofia believed that after a "second round" of confrontation in the Balkans, with opponents this time its former allies, could effectively promote its objectives. Its movements should be direct, due to the diplomatic developments, before the Powers engage in the distribution of the disputed territory between the winners of the first Balkan war. The military occupation of several regions could function as a necessary precondition for their consignment in Bulgaria. So just by completing one month of the signing of the Treaty of London, Bulgaria attacked without warning and without provocation against Greece and Serbia. It was the beginning of the Second Balkan War. This time was not the Balkan forces that fought united against the Ottoman Empire, but Bulgaria turned against it’s hitherto allies.
Within three days the forces of the two countries had managed to fight back and effectively deal with the Bulgarians and to halt their planned march, which had as its main objective the capture of Thessaloniki. The Bulgarians were forced to retreat. The areas that they abandoned, they previously set to fire and destroyed completely, and often were performing assassinations of civilians, in many cases slaughtered the majority of the population (Nigrita, Serres, Doksato, Demir-Isar [now Sidhirókastro] etc.).
The double victory of the Greek army at the Battle of Kilkis-Lachanas on June 21, despite the significant losses for the Greek side, resulted in the splitting of the fortification line of Bulgarians. This development combined with significant successes of Serbs the same time, virtually anticipated the outcome of the war just by completing five days by the start of the hostilities.
The short Second Balkan War lasted only a month and became a triumphant victory of Greeks and Serbs. The fighting was characterized by great hardness and losses were high on all sides. Within one month, battles of high severity were concluded with heavy losses for the clashing sides. On average, the Greek forces, despite the adverse conditions they had to face, were giving a victorious battle per day. Their march covered the whole a distance of 250 kilometers. The successes achieved by the Greek side were significant: the advance of the Greek army and the efficient operations by sea of the Greek fleet led to the release of important areas in eastern Macedonia and western Thrace. The cities of Kavala, Drama, Xanthi, Komotini (then Gkioumoultzina) and Alexandroupolis (then Dedeagats) were liberated. Gradually the entire western Thrace came under Greek control. The Bulgarian army was forced to retreat on all fronts. Gradually, the confrontation became widespread. Given the Bulgarian defeat in late June entered the war, Romania and Turkey. The Romanian advance inside Bulgaria encountered no resistance and reached the brink of Sofia, while Turkey regained significant ground in Thrace that was lost during the First Balkan War.
Bulgaria with the fear that the gushing developments at its expense lead in a humiliating defeat and could even threaten the existence of the Bulgarian state has sought, since late June, its early disengagement of the military confrontation, before the situation becomes irreversible. With the intervention of Austria, Romania took the initiative of a truce and started negotiations on a peace treaty. The five-day armistice was signed on July 17 by all belligerents and entered into force the following day. At the same time, began the work for the peace conference.
An intense diplomatic background had preceded, while King Constantine clung to treat the situation as extremely favorable and therefore considered that Bulgaria had to be crushed in the military field in order for Greece to be permanently relieved by the presence of a hazard on its northern borders. However, this view failed to recognize the fatigue of the Greek army that was already weakened, was in inaccessible areas, away from their supply bases and could not continue the effort for long. Moreover, it did not take into account the availability of the other Balkan countries for immediate truce, which made visible the risk of the diplomatic isolation of Greece and hitherto of the loss of its achievements. Eventually, under the weight of reality that was modulated at the front, Constantine admitted that the Greek army had found the limits of its endurance and retreated. With his agreement, Venizelos was signatory of the armistice.
The Greek Prime Minister believed that the Balkan countries were in Bucharest before a unique opportunity to consolidate the new balance of power in the region in order to lay the foundations for a lasting peace. Greece had the historic opportunity to play a critical role for the future prospect of the country and of the whole of the Balkan peninsula. And this opportunity should not be missed.